Higher Walton Road, Walton-le-Dale, Preston, Lancs PR5
A substantial stone-built church in fourteenth century Gothic style, and an early design by Peter Paul Pugin, built for a parish long served by the Douai Benedictines. The church has recently undergone major reordering, retaining the three stone altars and other historic features. With its adjoining presbytery, war memorial, school and burial ground the church holdings form a prominent group in the local street scene.
Walton grew as a textile centre from the eighteenth century, with major expansion of the cotton industry in the mid-nineteenth century. Long served by itinerant priests, mainly Benedictines, the mission was formally established in 1855, when the Revd J. B. Smith, an Ampleforth Benedictine, acquired land for a chapel and school. A dual-purpose school-chapel designed by a Mr Hughes opened in 1857 and in 1858 the first presbytery was built (architect again Hughes). Two years later a plot of land was acquired for a burial ground.
The need for a large purpose-built church became ever more pressing, and on 24 August 1879 Bishop Vaughan laid the foundation stone for the present building, designed by Peter Paul Pugin (builder Mr Hothersall of Preston). The completed church was opened by the bishop on 19 October 1880. It cost £5223 and was capable of seating over 500. The mission priest at this time was the Revd George Romuald Turner, a Douai Benedictine (the mission was to pass into the hands of that abbey in 1890).
Pugin’s drawings for the church and presbytery (reproduced in The Architect, 14 February 1880) show a south porch; it appears this was never built, although there remains a blocked doorway in this position. The presbytery (figure 3) was built in 1887 to a different design from that shown in figure 1, without the gables; nevertheless, it is likely to be by Pugin, and was attributed to him in the parish history published in The Tablet on 6 September 1930. The baptistery is also a later addition, as is the parish hall to the west (built using materials from the original school-chapel).
The church was redecorated and the Caen stone high altar installed, following Pugin’s designs, in 1907 (probably made by Boulton of Cheltenham). The Sacred Heart altar and probably the Lady altar were added at the same time, as were Stations of the Cross. A baptistery was added in 1930 and the church further redecorated for the church’s consecration in 1930. Other embellishments, possibly from around this time, included a hanging crucifix, stone pulpit and Derbyshire granite altar rails.
In 1920 a fine Portland stone Crucifix memorial to the parish dead of the First World War was unveiled outside the entrance to the church.
In 1951 Douai transferred the parish to the diocese. Three years later the church was again redecorated for the centenary of the mission, this time in a simplified style, with some of the stencil work in the sanctuary overpainted.
Post-Vatican II reordering was minor in nature, involving the introduction of a portable altar in front of the communion rails. More recently (2005-9), a more radical transformation of the interior has been completed at a cost of about £250,000. This has involved major repair and redecoration, extension forwards of the sanctuary, with the communion rails removed and a more permanent forward altar of appropriate design, extension of the western gallery to create an enlarged social area, and conversion of the former baptistery to WCs, with the font moved to the west end of the nave. The former parish hall is now a nursery.
The church is described in the list entry, below. This is a relatively early design by P. P. Pugin, in many respects typical of the work of Pugin & Pugin. The detailing of the internal piers is particularly free, while the corbels on the hoodmoulds have naturalistic carving based on that at Exeter Cathedral.
The list entry needs to be augmented to take account of the recent internal reordering, described above.
Church, 1880, by Pugin and Pugin. Nave with aisles, 3-sided apsidal chancel, south west stair turret with spire, and attached baptistry on north side. Rockfaced stone, slate roof. Four windows to south aisle, 3 to north aisle, all of 3-lights under a pointed Tudor arch, with trefoils in the heads, and stilted hoodmoulds which have cubic stops; clerestory of 2 cusped single lights in each bay. Octagonal stair turret at south west corner, terminating in a belfry with a short spire. West end has doorway with gabled arch, and a round window crossed diagonally by 2 pairs of bars intersecting at right angles, with cinquefoils in the outer angles. Gabled baptistry at west end of north aisle.
Interior: 4-bay nave arcade composed of columns with splayed heads and moulded octagonal capitals, with matching responds, supporting 2-centred arches with hoodmoulds which have in the springing tapered panels, each carved with a different naturalistic leaf pattern; very high chancel arch which has slim inner shafts terminating in naturalistic foliated capitals, and similar outer shafts continued over the head as a hoodmould. Elaborately carved reredos with pinnacled and crocketed canopies to main altar and both side altars; communion rail of coloured marble pierced by 2 rows of quatrefoils. Scissor-braced roof.
Listing NGR: SD5628427928
Original Date: 1880
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: II